On this day in 2008, my first niece, Rebecca Lynn, was born.
Eighty days later, before I could hold her hand, she was gone.
It should be noted that her passing was not a surprise. In fact, the real surprise was that she had made it home from the hospital, much less through her first day. She was born with severe abnormalities due to a chromosomal anomaly that made life impossible for her frail body. Her death was a thing of mercy. Nevertheless, it was beyond painful for those of us who loved her.
This is where I point out that the same chromosomal anomaly that made life impossible for my darling Rebecca is the chromosomal anomaly that makes my beloved C the special angel that she is. Yes, the two girls, born just over a month apart, (the two girls I had imagined would grow up together, thick as thieves, favorite cousins), had the same unbalanced translocation. On paper, they look identical. And yet, my daughter lived, and my brother's daughter did not.
When Rebecca passed, C had not yet been diagnosed with any medical conditions. We hadn't even begun to suspect them yet. We certainly didn't know about her chromosomes, as the geneticists had all been crystal clear when they said there was ZERO CHANCE I could be a carrier for the anomaly that affected my brother's children. I remember at her funeral, all I could do was hold her hand and stare into her beautiful little face. A face that shouldn't have been beautiful because of the cleft lip and flattened nose, but that was somehow the most angelic face I had ever seen. I ached for not having been able to fly out to Texas to hold her before she passed. I wept for the loss of the best friend my daughter was never going to know. I hurt for my brother because I had my daughter in my arms, and he had his daughter in a casket.
Earlier today, I was planning what I was going to blog about tonight. My childhood alter-ego, the first time a stranger recognized C's disabilities (Wednesday), my long day of class... And then, on my way home from a night out with friends, I checked my email and saw the birthday email my mom sends out for every member of our very large extended family. A birthday note in remembrance of Rebecca. My Rebecca. My brother's Rebecca. The Rebecca who forever changed my life without breathing a single breath in my presence.
My heart still breaks.